Single Member Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Alternated with Nairnshire

Number of voters:

18 in 1788


4 May 1754Sir John Gordon
26 Apr. 1768William Pulteney
 Sir John Gordon
17 Oct. 1780George Ross

Main Article

Cromartyshire was one of the smallest of the Scottish counties. No one family had a commanding interest: those with influence included the Gordons of Invergordon, the Macleods of Cadboll, the Mackenzies, earls of Cromarty, and, in the later part of the period, David Ross of Inverchasly, Lord Ankerville, S.C.J.

Sir John Gordon, who succeeded his father in the representation in 1742, was returned again in 1754. But from 1765 onwards he faced a strong challenge on behalf of William Johnstone (who took the name of Pulteney in 1767), acting with the support of Macleod of Cadboll and George Ross. Pulteney himself, though enormously rich, had no property in the county. From the beginning, the numbers on either side were almost equal, and the campaign was fierce. George Munro wrote to James West, 1 May 1765:1

There cannot be above 18 voters in the county besides myself. Mr. Johnstone [Pulteney] is secure of having nine of them, so that the merit of the election will depend entirely on my single vote. ... Sir John Gordon has in every instance behaved to me ... in the most disobliging way, and I should choose ... to continue entirely disengaged. P.S. The weight of the ministerial people seems to be all for Mr. Johnstone.

But at the Michaelmas meeting in 1765 the pro-Gordon majority struck off several of Pulteney’s supporters, including Macleod of Cadboll. The court of session in January 1766 ordered three of them to be restored, and this appears to have created a pro-Pulteney majority: at the Michaelmas 1766 meeting David Ross of Inverchasly, a Pulteney supporter, was added, and Sir John Gordon struck off.2 When the election came in April 1768 there were six voters on each side, and the election turned on the vote of Alexan